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MAY 12, 2000

A Manifesto for a Work-Family Truce

From "Work and Family -- Allies Or Enemies?"


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Can work be made the ally of family, and family the ally of work? And do we -- our employers, our families, and society -- have the will to change?

We believe there are things that must be done. In this final chapter, we become advocates for creating what we call an infrastructure for flexibility. We're glad to report that at least some of what we advocate is already being implemented in one form or another.

Every one of our recommendations, in one way or another, is about creating options. What we endorse, first and foremost, are integration and conflict reduction between family and work. At present, corporate and social policies in general don't support options because they are based largely on outmoded gender-role stereotypes, employment models, and cultural values that emerged in the days of a different workforce demography -- with Dad at a job away from home, Mom back with the kids, and the boss keeping a close eye on employees to make sure they were adding value.

We are convinced that work/family integration affords people a greater opportunity to achieve personal goals and lead more satisfying lives. It can promote career success and more satisfying relationships at home. It means we can be more available to care for elderly relatives. Reductions in role conflict reduce stress for nearly everyone.

Work/family integration means parents can be more involved in their children's lives. Think of the implications for education. Richard W. Riley, the U.S. Secretary of Education, put it this way: "When parents are involved, children get better grades and test scores, are more likely to graduate high school and go on to college, and are better behaved in class." Children need to know and feel the love of their parents, and we as a society need to provide those opportunities for parents to give that love to their children.

Employers also need to pay attention to family issues. As business professionals increasingly come to expect the kind of flexibility we've been describing, they're sure to seek out those employers who offer it. Employers who fail will experience unwanted turnover. Reducing that unwanted turnover can translate into a competitive advantage. Parents, especially, are looking for flexible employers. Businesses should view creating a flexible environment for employees as an investment. Employees will not only give a greater personal commitment to employers who demonstrate a willingness to be flexible, they're likely to find ways to work smarter too.

We believe there are three basic principles that should guide individuals, employers, and society.

1. Clarify what's important. We can't overstate the importance of this. We'd like to see fewer regrets of the nature of this one from Laurel Cutler, vice-chairman of Foote Cone & Belding: "I wish I had known sooner that if you miss a child's play or performance or sporting event, you will have forgotten a year later the work emergency that caused you to miss it. But the child won't have forgotten that you weren't there."

Each individual needs to let others know what's important to her or him. This is the key to negotiating for authority -- and flexibility -- on the job. Employers need to make business priorities clear to employees and encourage their employees to be just as clear about personal interests and concerns. Our leaders need to place more importance on such societal values as quality of life and human dignity. And we should reward those who provide resources that allow for flexibility.

2. Recognize and support the whole person. The second principle requires that we respect different life roles -- at work, in the family, in the community, and elsewhere -- and that we build supportive relationships. Both create the foundation for that infrastructure of flexibility we need to integrate work and family.

This principle has relevance for employers, too. Employers who recognize and support the whole person are open-minded. They go beyond the mere recognition that their employees have a life beyond work -- they celebrate that life. And they seek to take advantage, in good ways, of the things that employees' lives beyond work bring to the workplace. Think about the skills required to achieve high performance in professional jobs -- listening, coordinating, mentoring, and leading teams. Aren't they also relevant to being an effective parent? The management of a household, with its financial, interpersonal, entrepreneurial, and administrative requirements, has many applications to the management of a business enterprise.

Social policy should support the needs of people to manage boundaries between work and family. Further, society needs to loosen the constraints on choices available to men and women, through education and models that demonstrate the varieties of legitimate roles each of us can play.

3. Continually experiment to achieve our goals of a better integrated work and family life. This points to the need to learn from our experiences and those of others. There are no simple solutions, and what works now may not work later. In our agenda for action, we're prescribing a major cultural shift. The outcomes aren't certain, and all of us will need to experiment if we're to secure the best results. We need to continually reexamine our goals, try new strategies, question stereotypes we hold, and be willing to adopt new ways of looking at our work and our lives outside of work.

Stewart D. Friedman ( is currently director of the Ford Motor Co.'s Leadership Development Center in Dearborn, Mich., while on leave from his faculty position at the University of Pennsylvania's Wharton School. He has also been an advisor on work and family to Vice-President Al Gore. Jeffrey H. Greenhaus ( is professor of management and William A. Mackie Professor of Commerce and Engineering at Drexel University in Philadelphia. He is the author or co-author of three books.

The authors' research on work and family has been widely profiled in the media and academic journals.

Reprinted and excerpted with permission of Oxford University Press Copyright 2000 by Oxford University Press, Inc. Published by Oxford University Press, Inc. 198 Madison Ave., New York, N.Y. 10016

All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical or otherwise without prior permission of Oxford University Press.

Available at local or online bookstores. For more information on this book, see its listing on the Oxford University Press Web site []


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